Twice Tempted Page 10

Chapter 5

The car came to a stop inside the airplane hangar. I opened the door immediately, not wanting Maximus or Shrapnel to get it for me. About ten yards away, a gleaming, ivory-colored jet waited. Underneath my misery, I thought that it was a good thing I was traveling back to the States in Vlad's private plane. Even if my electricity issues magically disappeared, if I tried to fly commercial, my grim expression would guarantee that I got ’’randomly selected’’ for a pat-down.

A young, russet-haired man waited on the rollaway staircase next to the jet, but upon seeing me, he hurried down.

’’Where are your bags, miss?’’ he asked in accented English.

’’I don't have any.’’

’’Yes she does,’’ Maximus replied, getting out of the driver's seat. ’’They're in the trunk.’’

Only Gretchen's presence kept me from losing my temper. ’’I told you I didn't want any of that stuff. I came with the clothes on my back and that's how I intend to leave.’’

’’You're taking them, Vlad's orders,’’ Maximus said in a tone that made Redheaded Man hurry to the back of the limo. ’’What you do with them once you're home is up to you.’’

Vlad must not want any reminders of me cluttering up his house. He'd once told me that if I ever wanted out of this relationship, he'd let me go without argument. Had to give it to the man for keeping his word. Not only hadn't he argued, I hadn't seen him since the night he left my room. He didn't even say good-bye before Gretchen and I left for the airport.

No matter how hard I tried to tell myself that it was for the best, it hurt more than anything I'd ever endured.

’’Fine,’’ I said, forcing a smile for Gretchen's benefit.

My caustic sister had been uncharacteristically protective of me the past couple days. It reminded me of how close we'd been before the accident that claimed our mother's life and gave me my abilities. I kept telling her I was fine, so I couldn't ruin that by informing Maximus I'd sooner go naked than torture myself with memories by keeping the things Vlad had bought me.

Besides, he was right. I could throw them away later.

’’Well . . . good-bye,’’ I said when Maximus and the other man finished transporting our bags from the trunk to the aircraft.

He smiled slightly. ’’Not yet. I'm traveling with you to ensure that you are delivered safely to Marty.’’

Delivered, like a package. Once again I bit my tongue to keep from losing it in front of my sister.

Gretchen snorted. ’’What about me? No one cares if I make it back to my apartment in one piece?’’

Maximus nodded at the bald, mocha-skinned vampire who got out of the front of the limo.

’’Shrapnel's taking care of you.’’

He grinned, showing his flawless white teeth. ’’We didn't think Marty would want to see me again.’’

Since Shrapnel once tortured Marty, probably not. Then again, Marty might not be overjoyed to see me, either. My best friend and carnival partner had warned me not to get involved with Vlad. Looked like I owed Marty an apology. I'd give it to him, too, probably while falling into his arms and sobbing. I hadn't let myself cry since the night Vlad walked out. With Marty, however, I could finally quit pretending that I wasn't devastated by the breakup. He'd always been there for me and I needed him now more than ever.

I cast one final look around, hating that part of me had hoped Vlad would show up, saying everything he'd refused to say before. Then I smiled at Gretchen, wondering when I'd be able to do that without it feeling like a lie.

’’All right, little sister. Let's get both of us home.’’

Eighteen hours later, Maximus and I arrived in Gibsonton, Florida, also known as Showtown, USA. The heat and humidity assaulted me as soon as I got out of the car. It was only May, but the temperature had to be near one hundred degrees. Maximus got out, too, looking at the homes lined up like splotches of dough on a bakery assembly line.

’’Why do I smell elephant manure?’’

’’That's Betsy,’’ I said, pointing at the gray modular house. ’’Her trainers keep a pen for her in their yard . . .’’

My voice trailed off as I looked past the line of houses. I should've been able to see Marty's trailer since this was the shortest route into the RV park, but the spot where his 1982 Winnebago should be was empty.

’’Oh no,’’ I moaned.

Instantly Maximus was on alert, a silver knife appearing in his hand. ’’What's wrong?’’

’’Nothing that knife will help,’’ I said, cursing to myself. ’’For once, Marty must've decided to get on the road early.’’

Both golden brows rose. ’’He's not here?’’

’’No.’’

I should've called, but Marty never started the season early. Plus, I'd wanted to tell him in person what happened.

Maximus put his knife away and pulled out a cell phone. ’’Call him. Find out where he is.’’

I gave him a jaded look. ’’You don't know Marty when he's on the road. He's doing great if he remembers to bring his phone, let alone charge it or answer it. But don't worry. I know another way to find out which carnival he'll be at.’’

After a quick stop to talk to some of the other carnies, Maximus and I got on the road again. At least Gretchen and Shrapnel had continued by air after dropping us off in Florida. If I thought I had a chance at convincing Maximus to let me catch a bus, I would've, but he wouldn't leave until he'd fulfilled his sire's instructions to the letter.

Several hours later, in a north Georgia carnival parking lot, I saw a Winnebago with our stage names of Mighty Marty and the Fantastic Frankie painted on the side.


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